Comment – Surviving Recent Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire
What has been very disappointing and demoralizing in recent times are the emails, social media posts and the broader media attacks upon DVA, the ESORT and the ADSO.

Especially are the attacks on individuals and ESO leaders for not being supportive of the broad veteran communities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When these attacks get personal, lesser mortals might choose to walk away from it all but considering how far we have all come for the better we have no option “than to stay the course”.

Nothing is perfect in life and DVA is no different, but the improvements initiated over the last four years, through the Veteran Centric Reform program, are encouraging, but there is still a long way to go.

DVA, with the ESORT and others, are engaged and are working through the Productivity Commission Report and the Cornell Advocacy Report.

There is no doubt that the ESO community is being listened to in so many different areas, including families. There is a more holistic and workable approach in the case management of veterans and their families.

Unique Opportunity
The veteran community has a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset the agenda for veteran care into the future.

Presently there is increasing pressure on the DVA and the Government to consider and then implement much of what the Productivity Commission has recommended. This takes time. Yes, it is frustrating and slow grinding work. The pressure on the individuals who toil within DVA for the betterment of veteran care is relentless. This coupled with the constant pot shots from those outside the tent is having a demoralizing effect on all who work within the organisation. This is unfair! They should be allowed the opportunity to focus on the task of veteran care and not be forced to continually duck ill-considered friendly fire and, some, not so friendly.

Client Satisfaction
Interestingly, a client satisfaction survey conducted by an outside organisation has found that there is an 81% overall client satisfaction rating of DVA. When this is broken down demographically by age, the satisfaction rating of those 65 years and over is 89%; 45 years to 64 years, 72%; and under 45 years only 58%.

The last group is obviously the younger veteran. This poor 58% is precipitated by the complexities, duplicities and confusion across the three Acts.

DVA, with overt pressure from ESO leadership, is presently reviewing these three pieces of legislation to harmonise them as either one or two Acts. This will alleviate the issues, the time and the decision-making controversy that causes such angst for the younger veteran community.

The ESORT and the ADSO is supportive of DVA during this difficult period of implementing some of the recommendations of the PC and all we ask of the ex-service community is to give us all a fair go.

There are no cars, blazers or cigars for the work the members of the ESORT or ADSO do in these roles. It is all on a pro bono basis to try to make a difference in the best interests of veterans and their families.

Some criticisms of us may be justified at times due to poor communications, most are totally unfair and unacceptable. This when individuals are personal in their attacks and not backed by fact or constructive involvement in the area of veterans’ issues and veteran care.

10 September 2019

Kel Ryan 
National Spokesman 
Alliance of Defence Service Organisation 
Mobile: (0418) 759 120 

Michael von Berg
National President
RAR Corporation
Mobile: (0411) 870 055


  1. Mick Shave says

    Adrian d’Hage is spot on. For any claimant’s success the DVA has to be regarded as enemy. Most veterans take a while before lodging their claim. The matter is thought about, sometimes discussed with a doctor. To have it rejected out of hand by a public service layman is shattering. That, usually, it gets accepted on appeal does not help nor excuse the initial rejection. In my eleven years as a Granville advocate I often wondered how many veterans just threw up their arms in despair before disappearing from the sight of political gratitude.

  2. No one could have worked harder for veterans than Kel Ryan, Michael von Berg, Ted Chitham et al. That said, when you come out publicly in support of a system that is very clearly broken, you should not be surprised at the reaction – albeit that personal attacks are not called for. An overall dissatisfaction rate of 19% is appalling. While a few claims may be dubious, there appears to be an attitude in DVA that most, if not all veterans are trying to rip off the system and the processes are adversarial in the extreme with DVA reportedly spending over $15 million engaging lawyers to fight veterans’ claims! For the public record – I put the submission below to the last enquiry. Overall, DVA is an absolute disgrace, so instead of defending the clearly indefensible, the message to be taken on board is that there are a great many angry veterans – and with good reason.

    Dear Sir/Ma’am,

    Lack of Training and Negative Culture in Veterans’ Affairs

    I appreciate that this is not the time for details on my voluminous dealings with the Department, but in brief, I left the military after 37 years service:

    • A claim for bladder cancer was referred to a sports physician and refused. That decision was later overturned on appeal. Why the claim was not examined by a qualified oncologist has never been answered;
    • A claim for nephrolithiasis (kidney stones) was rejected, despite an identical case (Boyd vs Repatriation) having been determined by the AAT. That refusal was also overturned on appeal;
    • A claim lodged in 2008 went unanswered for four years. When the claim was finally allowed, the Department refused to pay medical expenses for other than the twelve month period leading up to final approval. The Department apologised, but instead of allowing for their incompetence, suggested that the veteran (myself) lodge a “Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration”. At the time of writing, that claim was lodged over a year ago and the Department’s lawyers have been engaged.

    This inquiry will hopefully determine whether the following assertions are true, but in my experience, despite the best efforts of staff (there are many fine public servants in DVA), they are, in too many cases, poorly trained and sometimes poorly led. There is anecdotal evidence of a culture of suspicion – that the veterans are trying to rip the system off. There may be isolated incidents of false claims, but the approach seems to be one of finding every possible way to deny a claim, which results in further expense in appeals that should have been determined very much earlier and in a far more timely manner.

    To quote Senator Bernie Sanders: “If you can’t afford to look after your veterans, you can’t afford to go to war.” The current Departmental approach is a national disgrace. I am happy to provide further detail if required.


    Dr Adrian d’Hagé, AM, MC, MAICD, Dip MilStud, B AppSc (Oen), B Th (Hons), PhD

    Brigadier (Ret’d)

  3. I appreciate the work and difficulties faced by the DVA and ESOs and thank them collectively for what has been done for veterans over the years, albeit there have been some mistakes, perhaps injustices. I witnessed whilst working in South Korea in 2003-4, that Korean war veterans lay claim to every nook and doorway in their extensive subway stations etc. from which they beg the public for money daily. In conclusion we are better off than many thanks, to the DVA and ESOs etc.

  4. Maurie Young says

    I am fully supportive of the work being done by DVA under circumstances that are increasing because of the physical and mental pressure on todays Servicemen. Hopefully DVA’s catchup will eventuate.
    At the same time, I am also supportive of ADFRA and their effort to stop Comsuper from stealing my pension, unlike some in the ESOs. Kowtowing to the government on this issue is not helpful.

  5. Steven Kennedy says

    I am sorry to hear of personal attacks on the ones that are trying to help! I think that the distrust in DVA is going to continue for a very long time amongst the May I say the middle aged and young er veteran s because of past transgressions and all new veterans dealing with DVA who are new to the system always regard them as the new enemies. I mean that’s how we are trained bit late to teach old dogs new tricks hey! But in saying that I found once in the system things got better. But now I am actually very happy with the way I’ve been treated lately. Keep up the great work. Duty First